Xolo Score 4.5/5
Okoye to the People is a fantastic story about leading with compassion and finding inner strength. The book explores great conversations about gentrification, heroism vs. saviorism, and community activism through young Okoye's first visit to the United States. Readers will enjoy the characters Tree, Mars, and Lucinda, the champions of Brownsville, Brooklyn, and their unlikely kindship with Okoye. And cheer them on as they take on influential powers threatening their community.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Okoye is a fish out of water during her diplomatic visit to New York City with King T'Chaka and Aneka, Captain of the Dora Milaje. As she learns about the struggling and quickly gentrifying Brownsville, Brooklyn Okoye immediately feels a kinship to young teens Tree and Mars. Okoye sees their passion and love for Brownsville and compares it with her love and dedication to Wakanda. However, she struggles to understand why the teens of Brownsville would turn a synthetic drug that empowers the user to send buildings ablaze so wealthy developers can build on its ashes. But she knows that even if the kids do evil things under the influence of PyroBliss, they are not evil.
Although Okoye is a member of the esteemed elite group of female warriors, the Dora Milaje, with ample knowledge of the world, the residents of Brownsville often school her. For instance, Councilwomen and Brownville local Lucinda Tate teaches Okoye about the insidiousness of gentrification. She explains how it's a tool of neo-colonialism perpetuated all over the United States. Okoye grew up in Wakanda with a government that supports its people regardless of their race, class, or social standing. So she struggles to understand why the government or law enforcement systems blatantly ignore and refuse to help the people of Brownsville and therefore takes matters into her own hands.
Okoye acts on good intentions when she starts to investigate the origin of PyroBliss, but her saviorism puts the young teens of Brownsville in more trouble. At times Okoye also talks down to her fellow teens for choosing to work with the people actively destroying their community. But Mars and Tree continuously remind Okoye that she is not in Wakanda and that although they are young, they have autonomy. Okoye eventually realizes that "we became like the colonizers when we visit countries, cities, and even neighborhoods without knowing the full truth of who they are." Thus deciding that her role as a hero is to empower the citizens of Brownsville to stand up and fight back and not save them.
Okoye to the People is a fantastic anticolonialist YA novel that challenges the superhero genre.
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